The Capture Stage of GTD, Explained
The first step of the GTD workflow is about collecting everything that catches your attention; any input that might be meaningful to you or that is already meaningful to you, even if you are not doing anything about it yet.
Capturing does not mean interrupting what you are doing to do something else. It just means reacting to something that comes to your mind and writing it down, without spending more time on it at that moment, so that you can continue with what you’re currently focusing on without being distracted by anything else.
It is about collecting all those issues that you consider incomplete, that is to say, those that might need to be closed or something must be done about them.
In order to manage this inventory of incomplete items you need to collect them in a reliable external system until it’s time to decide what they are and what to do with them. The purpose of capturing is to make sure that everything you need is out of your head and accessible.
A good practice is to capture 100% of your incomplete inputs, even those that seem unimportant, so that your organizational system represents an accurate picture of your real commitments and interests. If your system does not match your reality, your motivation will soon wane.
You can use different tools to capture, from a notebook to any of the capturing tools of your cell phone (notepad, voice recorder, etc.). You need to choose the best tool for each situation. It’s key to always have one of these tools at hand, so you can collect potentially valuable ideas wherever you are and be confident that they won’t be lost. This will free you from the stress of constantly having to remember everything and give you space to think and brainstorm more ideas.
Another good practice is to have as few capture trays as possible. It’s about having access to them at any time and place to dump the ideas, but without scattering the information. If the inboxes are too scattered, it will be more difficult to process them in the next stage.
Just having inboxes with all your collected items does not make them functional. If you don’t clear these items and empty the bins regularly, you will just be storing things. Capturing is only the first step, which needs to be followed by a whole process to acquire effective value. The second step will be to clarify what you have captured. We will see it in the next article on this blog.
Falling off the board
The expression “falling off the board” is often used in GTD to identify a situation in which, despite our best intentions to establish the necessary habits for good personal management, the day to day has overcome us and we have gradually abandoned the good practices we had begun to implement.
This is going to happen to you, just as it has happened to all of us. And not once, but several times. The important thing is to be aware that it is happening, get back on the board and continue surfing. Over time, it will happen less and less.
The mind sweep
If you are just starting to use GTD, or you have fallen off the board, or you still haven’t fully acquired the habit of capturing, the “mind sweep” is a very useful capture technique that you can use every time you have the feeling that there are still things outside your organizational system.
It simply consists of physically and mentally reviewing a list of personal and professional related categories, and capturing everything that comes to mind about each of those items. Here is a detailed list of those categories.
Capture, in a nutshell
What is it? Gathering everything that catches your attention in reliable external containers that you empty regularly.
How do you do it? By collecting out of your head the thing that catches your attention using some kind of capturing tool (notes, recordings, apps, etc.), without thinking and immediately going back to what you were doing.
When do you do it? The very moment something pops up or comes to your head.
Why? To train your attention and avoid distractions. Also to avoid overlooking anything potentially important and to free yourself from the stress of having loose ends to constantly remember.